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On their first week in class, a group of students is playing a first-person shooter video game in a sleek new digital studio. It’s their introduction to the degree in esports they’ve all enrolled in.

Esports tournaments have become a cultural phenomenon and now rival traditional sports events in size and scale. Big competitions are held in arenas where thousands of fans watch big-name professional video gamers compete for lucrative prize pools.

Esports leagues have franchises in North America, Europe and Asia. The biggest names, such as Fortnite superstar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, can earn millions in prize money and livestreaming deals. Esports are even set to be a medal event at the Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines in November.

Skeptical? Consider this.

Globally, the esports market has grown to $1.1 billion this year with sponsorships, merchandise, and ticket sales, according to Newzoo, and it’s projected

to be valued at $1.4 billion by 2020. The audience is also growing. An estimated 454 million fans are live streaming in 2019.

The University of Staffordshire has bachelor’s and master’s esports programs, “in which students mainly learn marketing and management skills tailored to the industry.”

Other universities offering esports programs include:

  • Britain’s Chichester University
  • Virginia’s Shenandoah University
  • Becker College in Massachusetts
  • The Ohio State University

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